When an Italian friend Stefania was told that I write for English newspapers and magazines in India, her first question to me was, ‘is English widely understood and read in India?’ I had to reply, ‘Not as much as the regional languages and Hindi but it is spread a lot more than in Europe. The English ruled there for centuries, it was bound to rub off.’
Her next question was, ‘Is your education system any good?’ There is no other answer to this than saying, ‘It is getting better, still in rural areas things are not that great.’ I wondered if people haven’t noticed how many English speaking Indians are giving people from every nationality a run for their money outside India and are not NRIs.
After a few days, she asked me to help her learn how to wear a sari. That was fun. Cultural discussion on women’s condition, marriages, education, employment, environment and political system were all fun too where each of us were supposed to explain the situation of our respective countries in an international group in the Cultural integration class.
Everyone is curious about India these days and every time I ended up explaining through my urban middle class spectrum a fine picture of growth where parents and children work hard to make a future, businesses are thriving, there is progress in most sectors. And still I had to keep on adding to be politically correct that conditions are different in different parts of India. After all they’d all seen Slumdog Millionaire dubbed in German.
One can’t just focus on a rosy picture and live in denial as there is still an India that lives in villages, honour killings take place in educated families, dowry is discussed, women are suffocated, people at large are more suffocated because of political anarchy, disaster management is poor, media is immature and corruption is rampant. Just listing things from the top of my head. But these things can’t dampen the fact that in spite of all that, good things are happening way faster in India than in other countries. No matter how, but India is happening.
Everyone seems to be discussing India’s age but it still after all is a young democracy. India feels like a teenager going through mood swings these days. Sort of giving it a dual personality where it is progressing and suffering at the same time. As it is 15th August, even sitting in a remote corner far away, my mind is celebrating and thinking of home. Happy Birthday India.